How to grab a free genuine copy of Windows 10

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 20, 2015
Updated • Jul 5, 2017
Windows, Windows 10

The newest version of Windows, Windows 10, will be released on July 29 to a worldwide audience. It is Microsoft's attempt to win back unsatisfied users who did not like the Windows 8 operating system.

The company wants to achieve that through various means, for instance by moving away from the two interfaces of Windows 8 or by re-implementing a start menu, but also by offering the operating system as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users.

Updates were released for Windows 7 and 8 that promote the free upgrade to Windows 10 to reach most "home" customers and get them to upgrade to Windows 10.

While it is unclear at this point in time how successful the promotion will be, it is very likely that it will push Windows 10 to millions of systems.

It was not clear up until now how Microsoft would handle systems that run Insider Builds of Windows 10. These preview builds of the operating system can be installed on PCs meeting the system requirements for free.

Microsoft's Gabe Aul revealed in a new blog post published on the official Blogging Windows blog yesterday that these installations will receive the upgrade to Windows 10 final and remain activated under certain conditions.

As long as you are running an Insider Preview build and connected with the MSA you used to register, you will receive the Windows 10 final release build and remain activated.

The only requirement is that a Microsoft Account is linked to the operating system. The Insider Build of Windows 10 final remains activated (read genuine) if that is the case.

Update: Microsoft revised its announcement shortly after it published the article on the company blog. While it is still possible to get Windows 10 for free, it remains activated only if the Insider program is not left. This means that it will receive Inside builds (read beta) after the release of the final version.

This means in turn that anyone interesting in a free copy of Windows 10 can grab one by installing a Windows 10 Insider Preview on a compatible PC and linking it to a Microsoft Account.

Aul notes furthermore that users may do a clean install at any time after they have installed and activated the build successfully to start over again with a clean install.

Once the final version has been activated, Inside Preview users may leave the program and stay on the final build. There is no requirement to remain an Insider after activation and it seems as if there are not any drawbacks to leaving the program after installation and activation of the final Windows 10 build.

It should be clear that the version will be linked to the PC it was installed on and the Microsoft Account it was linked to.

This means that anyone with compatible hardware and a Microsoft account can grab a free copy of Windows 10 and use it indefinitely on a single machine. Considering that Windows 10 Pro retails for $199, that is an interesting proposition which should further boost the operating system's reach especially during the first few months of general availability.

It is unclear -- but likely -- that the offer is only available in a time-limited window. Microsoft has not revealed yet any restrictions but if you are interested in the free copy, you may want to install an Insider Preview build as soon as possible on a PC and link it to a Microsoft account.

Starting with the next Insider build, Insiders who have not linked a Microsoft Account to the operating system will receive notifications to do so to continue receiving new Windows 10 Insider Preview builds.

How to grab a free genuine copy of Windows 10
Article Name
How to grab a free genuine copy of Windows 10
Find out how to obtain a free genuine copy of Windows 10, Microsoft's newest operating system that was just released by the company.
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  1. User_Choice said on June 25, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Well they are gonna be guinea pigs for botched updates that will cause BSOD every couple of days or weeks. One thing I always want in a Windows OS is to turn off automatic updates/manually do it. Also I’ve heard somehow that in Win 10 RTM they may have removes the ability to turn off updates and only left Automatic/Download but install later options which is absurd and ridiculous!!!

  2. Marco said on June 23, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Windows as a Service is in the air, don’t know when it’s coming, probably in 2016 or later. I doubt Microsoft will ever release Windows for free, and many believe it will be offered as a subscription. I guess time will tell.

  3. Nebulus said on June 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

    So basically they switched 180 degrees in two days and two updates of their blog post… After they almost convinced me to enter their Insider program in spite of all the loss of privacy, now they changed their views on the issue completely, so I had to change mine too: I’ll stick with my XP.

    1. Marco said on June 23, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Exactly. And it’s not the first time they completely change cards on the desk. Such approaches are not good for their image. Nobody is pretending to have Windows 10 for free, but you cannot write one thing and then change your mind. All online media spread out the new that beta tester would get Windows 10 for free.

      1. Nebulus said on June 23, 2015 at 11:17 am

        Fortunately though, the people who are interested in Microsoft new developments will read the new information provided and will take note of the Microsoft changes. But I agree with you, this is bad for their image.

  4. Marco said on June 23, 2015 at 6:33 am

    So Microsoft at the end of the day is NOT giving away Windows 10 to Insiders… Unless they continue being beta testers.

    I recommend everybody to read the updated blog post at

    So the caveat is that if you keep on being a beta tester you will get Windows 10 and all subsequent new beta builds. But if you opt out you still need to have a valid Windows 8 or 7 license in order to receive Windows 10 for free. If that is not the case you need to ‘acquire’ (as Microsoft say to mean buy) a Windows 10 license.

    As a final comment this is not the first time that Microsoft creates false expectations on this topic within the community, and this is not good.
    Personally I will upgrade for free on my Windows 8.1 and 7 systems via the regular free upgrade offer valid for one year (for all users, not related to being Insiders) and I will continue to be part of the Insider Program on my test system.

    For more clarity I am pasting from the updated blog post:

    “I want to continue as a Windows Insider!” If you want to continue as a Windows Insider past 7/29 there is nothing you need to do. You’re already opted in and receiving builds in the Fast or Slow ring depending upon your selection. This is prerelease software and is activated with a prerelease key. Each individual build will expire after a time, but you’ll continue to receive new builds so by the time an older prerelease build expires you’ll have received a new one. Since we’re continuing the Windows Insider Program you’ll be able to continue receiving builds and those builds will continue to be activated under the terms of the Windows Insider Program. We provide ISOs for these builds for recovery from any significant problems, but they are still pre-release software. As part of the program we’ll upgrade Insiders to what is for all intents and purposes the same build as what other customers will get on 7/29, but that will be just another build for Insiders, and those who stay in the program will simply get the next build after as well.
    “I want to opt out of the Windows Insider Program on 7/29.” If you decide to opt-out of the program and upgrade to the 7/29 build you will be subject to exactly the same terms and conditions that govern the offer* that was extended to all Genuine Windows 7 and 8.1 customers. This is not a path to attain a license for Windows XP or Windows Vista systems. If your system upgraded from a Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license it will remain activated, but if not, you will be required to roll back to your previous OS version or acquire a new Windows 10 license. If you do not roll back or acquire a new license the build will eventually expire.

    1. Andrew said on June 23, 2015 at 7:57 am

      Makes sense to me, why should microsoft give away free licenses to people that haven’t paid or isn’t willing to beta test?

      1. Nebulus said on June 23, 2015 at 9:43 am

        Because being part of the Insider program until Win10 is releases IS beta testing. And because the loss of privacy that comes with the beta testing (sending telemetry data to MS) must be compensated somehow.

      2. Andrew said on June 23, 2015 at 9:19 am

        But I don’t get where you see that happening. I mean does any other OS do that? OSX? Linux? Android? iOS? Consumers would not adopt a subscription basis, and it would essentially end Windows for consumers as people would move to an alternative platform.

        The backlash would be so bad that it would destroy Microsoft essentially. Office 365 made sense from a business standpoint, a subscription windows doesn’t and the shareholders wouldn’t allow it because there’s no favorable long term. Consumers cannot be sold like enterprises.

        I see Microsoft moving much like Apple, offering free OS upgrades, focusing on hardware and building their ecosystem.

      3. Marco said on June 23, 2015 at 9:10 am

        Andrew, basically I agree with you. I’ve always had genuine Windows (and software), but the problem is that it’s not the first time that Microsoft first says Windows 10 will be free than it retracts.
        Going forward, probably in one year or so, I guess Windows will become available by subscription only, like Office 365. So this could have been a very good opportunity for the ‘new’ Microsoft to gain the widest OS user base ever and start from there. Having such a huge Windows 10 ecosystem would bring lots of revenue to Microsoft, with people subscribing to Office 365, buying Windows software and apps on the Window Store.

  5. nuio said on June 22, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Do you ever heard of a free game with IAP? this is what windows 10 will be. once you install it you need to pay for some settings or feature, for example you need to pay if you want to change the brightness of your laptop,

    1. Andrew said on June 23, 2015 at 7:56 am

      Source? or just assumptions?

  6. Dan82 said on June 21, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Yes of course, the unclear statements about free upgrades or free versions of Windows 10 have been going around for a while now. While that reeks of unprofessionalism and a lack of planning by the Microsoft PR department, it also keeps Windows 10 in the news.

    I’m almost convinced, that this may be a planned strategy even, because Windows 10 is Microsoft’s best chance to catch up after years of being outperformed by Apple and Google. Their in-system store, which has only been available on Windows 8/8.1 so far, is lagging behind; only with a big push to the new operating system could this be changing. Don’t forget: Microsoft earns 30 percent of all sales in their store and that’s motivation enough to give away some cheap or free licenses until a critical mass is reached. Currently less than a quarter of all Windows-based devices connected to the Internet (Phone, RT, 8/8.1) come equipped with a store. The synergy this push could have on future smartphone and tablet sales aren’t to be underestimated either, especially during a slowing sales trend where people need to be motivated to replace their aging devices.

    As nice as this Microsoft Insider program sounds though – who wouldn’t like a free Windows license just for applying to a beta program – it it certainly a double-edged sword. Nobody reads the privacy policy, but some attention should be paid before agreeing to it. The following are important excerpts, because other software would usually be considered malware for its declared function of collecting data on your application use, file access as well as voice and keyboard input (“… we may collect information about your device and applications …”; “… we may collect voice information …”; “… we may collect information about the file, the application used to open the file and how long it takes to use it …”; “… we may collect samples of your input …”).

    I do wonder however, if this massive data gathering will be kept up after the final of Windows 10 has been published, merely by once having been a member of the Insider program, or if it is limited to pre-release versions of the operating system. Personally I won’t be getting a free license this way, because the Terms of Use for the Insider program don’t explicitly state when or if this data gathering will end. It only mentions that it “include[s] experimental and early prerelease software”, but it doesn’t appear limited to the pre-release status (“The Program Services may change before commercial release or may never be commercially released”). This kind of uncertainty is reason enough for me to skip the offer.

  7. Joel said on June 21, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Makes one wonder:
    How possible should it be to install on a virtual machine, have it running\activated\whatever – till 29th of July when they’ll send upgrades…
    And then just grab the free version?
    Thing is [like mentioned\asked, I think…] – as MS themselves suggest that one shouldn’t install Insider on a prime user machine [cuz it is an insider and not final version] so… obviously I’d want the free new official copy to run on a main machine [if we’d like Win10 eventually…] – hence the question again:
    can I run it on a virtual machine for now, till time is due and then somehow get the free copy to be installed on any other machine of my choise?
    If so, pls share the easiest method for that , for the benefit of all ;)

    Cheers =]

    1. Nebulus said on June 21, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      I think that if you install it on your virtual machine, you will be able to use it legally only on that virtual machine, and not on your physical computer.

    2. Gabriel said on June 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      Pretty sure activation is tied to hardware ID so that wouldn’t work.

      1. Joel said on June 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm

        Then why do they suggest not to install on main used machine of ours?
        Or is it the usual “covering their a**” tactics in case ppl would want to complain of loses etc?
        Trying to comfortably hack our way to legit version, work wiz me :P

  8. hiu said on June 21, 2015 at 8:56 am

    I will still stick with windows 7 until it supports ends. Then I will move to any suitable linux distro.

  9. User_Choice said on June 21, 2015 at 6:22 am

    All in All this is optional. If privacy is your concern then don’t sign-up. It’s FREE but still you’ll need to follow Microsoft’s terms/policy by having your FREE (genuinely spied) copy of Windows 24/7 monitored, I even wonder if this FREE copy requires for you to be connected to the internet like XBONE?. If you want privacy or have not the need to sign-in/connect to MSA then buy or upgrade your genuinely bought Windows 7/8.

  10. Random-guy said on June 21, 2015 at 1:24 am

    You know, Martin, in some posts, you are “pro-privacy” while on others you come from cnet/pc world POV (a Microsoft/Apple partner). That’s one of the reasons why you are losing the readership! You have no editorial (ethical) voice!

    I’ve been your avid-reader for a long time and i will still keep reading ghacks but i gotta tell you that you are not like what you were in the beginning! For example…

    in this post, Microsoft is cooperating with NSA and advertisers to sell users info.. that’s why they don’t care about a $100 worth win10 licence cause they can get so much more from NSA and advertisers per user > and that is exactly why they will let anyone to use win10 not caring about how legitimate it is as long as their Microsoft customer… YOU DO NOT MENTION ANYTHING LIKE THIS IN THE ARTICLE!!!

    I can continue to write another 5000 words but i’m sorry i cant be bothered…
    i hope you to get a real voice and choose a side and include pro-privacy users’ POV in each of your article or go pro-Microsoft/Apple/NSA. You can’t be in the middle.. You’re not a Finnish loser. or Are you?

    1. Nebulus said on June 21, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      This is an article that gives information about how to get a Windows 10 copy for free and without pirating it. I don’t think that NSA or another privacy issues should be discussed in each article that involves Windows…

  11. Andrew said on June 21, 2015 at 12:54 am

    This is basically amnesty for …well… anyone who isn’t being a good girl or boy. Only caveat is going on the grid with the Microsoft account. I suppose there will be people who choose not to use this program. Seems OK by me though.
    – Andy

    1. Neal said on June 21, 2015 at 9:56 am

      No doubt they want to sell their services like onedrive and office or begin their transition to it judging by how integrated those services are already in Windows 8. Microsoft will always make big money selling and offering support for Windows to enterprise, but I doubt they make much per consumer computer with the huge volume licensing deals for oems.

      If a reasonable percentage of new consumer Windows 10 users subscribe to either onedrive or office that would make them a lot more money than any “free” windows licenses wherever they might of come from.

    2. Nebulus said on June 21, 2015 at 8:35 am

      Actually this is not amnesty for pirates, but the closest thing you get to a “free Windows”. IMO, Microsoft is torn about this issue of giving Win10 for free: on one hand, they would want everyone to switch to the newest version of the OS and then use the cloud business to drive profits up, so they are inclined to give it away; on the other hand they don’t like the idea of lowering their profits by not selling their new OS.

  12. Jumbybird said on June 20, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    I’ve read three different articles about this, and I still don’t understand what the heck they’re talking about…. Can’t someone write this in plain English? Why does it have to be SOOOOOO complicated?

  13. Passed Last said on June 20, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    In some ways 10 is a downgrade and updates are (reportedly) enforced.
    I guess we will also have to create a stupid MS account to use it?

  14. br0adband said on June 20, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    They’re just going full on stupid with this, seriously. It’s getting so ridiculous in how they’re going to either make this work or not make it work and the lack of information – specific, get to the absolute point, no BS, here it is info that is actually useful – is disheartening but I’ve already made the decision that I won’t be using Windows 10 when it’s released or anytime thereafter.

    Seriously, they’re tripping over themselves explaining and re-explaining then modifying and re-explaining things again so badly it’s just gone beyond funny.

    I mean, really?

    1. dwarf_t0ssr said on June 20, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      Not sure I get your meaning. If you are referring to a ton of confusion initially over exactly how one might get free Windows 10, I’d somewhat agree. MS *and* tech media could have done more to cut through the marketspeak (but instead, the man on the street heard “everyone gets free Windows 10, even pirates”, lol).

      Marketing being what it is, I wouldn’t doubt some of the ambiguity was by design — for buzz, or whatever.

  15. Guest said on June 20, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    “The only requirement is that a Microsoft Account is linked to the operating system.”

    Yeah, nope. I’ll stick with Windows 8.0 pirated edition.

  16. juju said on June 20, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    it’s free in a sense that devil already knows that your soul belongs to him. Nowadays he is probably more concerned about different window to the soul – maybe through inoculation of your children.

  17. iron2000 said on June 20, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    A quick browse through the article title and contents seem to suggest that to get a free copy of Windows 10 one must install an Insider Preview build. Quick browse, not a through read though.

    I know its not true but somehow thats the idea I get from this article.

    1. br0adband said on June 20, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      But that’s exactly what Gabe Aul said in that posting: if you install an Insider Preview build (readily attainable) and you link that with your Microsoft Account (whatever that might be for you), then when the final build of Windows 10 is available you’ll get it because you were part of the Insider Program which requires signing up for it.

      Just installing a preview build does not mean you’ll get a free copy – signing up for the Insider Preview and linking the Microsoft account with it does.

      See the difference there? One is just grabbing the ISO and installing it without being an Insider member, one requires Insider membership.

  18. MW said on June 20, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Does it have Windows Classic? Ever since XP, I’ve always hated their default theme.

    1. Andrew said on June 21, 2015 at 6:14 am

      Don’t count on it, they removed Windows Classic theme in windows 8 i believe… anyway, Windows Classic doesn’t take advantage of DWM, meaning the GUI is basically handled by RAM vs GPU.

      I think there’s hacks and themes to give you a similar look. But personally speaking, in terms of simplicity I like the windows 8 theme.

  19. Maelish said on June 20, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I’ve noticed my old technet keys for windows 7 are good for free copies of windows 10. Thought somebody might like to know that.

    1. dwarf_t0ssr said on June 20, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      Students can also get keys by way of Dreamspark, if their school participates in that program. Good eye.

    2. toirn said on June 20, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Maybe I’m a bit slow today but can you explain more how to use an old win 7 technet key to get a free copy of Windows 10?

  20. Vítor I said on June 20, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    No, thanks. I’m happy with my (almost perfect) Linux Mint.

    1. george kinbote said on June 20, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      if win10 were any good would they be giving it away?
      wouldn’t you think there was something fishy going on if they started to give away iWatch?
      the strings attached to “free” products are how scam artists make their living

      1. george kinbote said on June 21, 2015 at 1:27 am

        Jeff, you should compare apples with apples
        listening to music on the radio, football games on tv, search engines etc etc are all services
        software programs like win10, Photoshop, Autocad as well as hardware like iWatch are all products
        the statement that ‘the strings attached to “free” products are how scam artists make their living’
        in no way postulates that all free products are scams, as you may well deduce after the first semester of logic 101
        Android is a free product and is not a scam, but there are so many strings attached in the form of non-removable bloatware, nonstop ads, invasive “free” aps and other marketing ploys, that the company is worth billions of dollars
        unfortunately, MS is not as open as Google about their plans to monetize “free” win10

      2. Jojo said on June 20, 2015 at 7:32 pm

        Excellent summary Jeff!

      3. Jeff said on June 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm

        That’s hardly universal. You could listen to music on the radio for free all day and it’s not a scam. It’s just that someone else is subsidizing the cost. Same with over the air TV broadcasts. Lots of good shows and sport events that are free to watch, but advertisers pay the cost. Google gives away Google Earth for free, and its amazing. Same with their search engine and many of their other products. Hell, most of the freakin’ internet is free to read, and not a scam.

        In the case of Microsoft giving away Win 10, the free version is limited to people with Win 7 and 8.1 installs. The giveaway for those on the Tech Preview would be taken advantage of by maybe 0.001% of the population, and in that case it requires a MS account tied to it.

        MS is simply subsidizing the cost of the giveaway themselves as an investment. They are trying to establish a very high adoption rate (an area in which Win 8 failed). With a high adoption rate, they can push their other products like OneDrive, Office 365, the built in Windows Store etc.

  21. Daniel said on June 20, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I am sorry but I got a couple of question. Is it valid on the specific system only? Say if I activated the Insider Preview and later decided to reinstall it on my other new system would it be possible or it will be tied to that specific system/PC only? If it was tied to MSA then we should able to switch system perhaps?

    When we decided to left the Insider Preview program it mention we to get the final release version. What final version is that? Was it the same original final release? If that was the case what version? Window 10 Pro or Home?

    Thank for sharing the article nice read.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 20, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Daniel, we don’t know all the details yet. From what Microsoft mentioned, it seems likely that the license is tied to the PC and Microsoft Account. Final Release means Windows 10 RTM, the release version of the operating system that you can also buy in store.

  22. YB said on June 20, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Interesting article. I agree with Undervest as this isn’t quite fair to those who have spent money on Windows 7, 8, or even 10. Especially if people can just download the Insider Preview and link it to a Microsoft Account for free.

    1. Womble said on June 20, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      You can get a copy free too, what’s the problem? You don’t like nice things happening to others?

      1. dwarf_t0ssr said on June 20, 2015 at 11:19 pm

        Co-signed. I don’t get the sour grapes at all.

  23. DVD Rambo said on June 20, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    This will cause serious issues when someone sells or gives away their “Insider only” Windows 10 computer at some point in the future. Will they leave it tied to their personal account or remove Windows 10? Either way, it makes what MS is doing interesting only as long as the MS account holder stays the primary user of the Windows 10 PC in question.

  24. Inderjeet said on June 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I know this is really a nit-picky point of view… but honestly, how is this “fair” to the customers who actually spent money on their copy of Windows?

    1. Doc said on June 25, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      It’s “fair” because the Insiders provided feedback to help the development of Windows 10, including bug reports and feature requests.
      You don’t like being paid for the work you do? Seriously?

    2. dwarf_t0ssr said on June 20, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      I have a legit copy, and have no issues whatsoever with MS doing this. Not even jealous here.

      Such a move seems to be about not only making money off of an app store (assuming it has one, don’t know though), but possibly winning over Linux users. Also, the more legitimate users, the more bug reports and fixes, which is good for everyone.

      1. dwarf_t0ssr said on June 20, 2015 at 11:18 pm

        Also, just to head it off at the pass: I love Linux but use both extensively.

    3. Womble said on June 20, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      Awww Mommmmmm!

      1. Inderjeet said on June 20, 2015 at 8:25 pm

        Hehehe :D

    4. Jeff said on June 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      The business world has very little to do with “fair” ;-) However, what they are doing here is requiring a MS account be linked to the OS, so those accounts that require this are trading some privacy for the free OS. Those that paid for previous versions of windows do not have this requirement and can use local, non-linked accounts.

      1. Kase said on June 23, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        I agree with Jeff. But also take in mind that MS WANTS this OS to become the standard. They WANT us to be unified in our OS. They really would like to see everyone move onto one standardized system. Imagine how much easier that would be to maintain than what they have now: XP still deployed, Vista still kicking around, 7, 8, 8.1. If they can coax the general public into moving to 10, well that makes everything easier.

        Personally, I like it and have it running on a machine at home using ALL the goodies that I have. Dreamscene works well with a little work, all my games all the way back to XP. Everything I use daily works.

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